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Thank you, Dan Boyle

As Dan Boyle is set to retire, I reflect on the impact he’s had on the Sharks and myself.

Phoenix Coyotes v San Jose Sharks Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Dan Boyle inspired confidence.

On April 20, 2010, I wore my Dan Boyle jersey to school. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, and had worn that white Sharks jersey to school many game days before. This day was different.

Two days before, the Sharks fell behind 2-1 in their first round series against the Colorado Avalanche in heartbreaking fashion. Boyle attempted to backhand the puck off of the end boards, but instead found Evgeni Nabokov’s near post, as the puck trickled in helplessly and gave Colorado the win.

Ryan O’Reilly may have redirected it, but Boyle bore the brunt of the blame. The Sharks had dominated the Avalanche through three games, after all. There had to be some reason the Sharks lost.

I wore Boyle’s jersey the day of the Sharks’ next game because I knew he would respond. He was one of the league’s best blueliners, and had demonstrated an incredible ability to bounce back from mistakes, as rare as they were.

A classmate chided me for wearing Boyle’s jersey, but I knew Boyle would have a big game. I even predicted that he would score a goal that night.

I didn’t realize he’d only need 72 seconds.

That goal was why Doug Wilson acquired Dan Boyle 21 months before. He was the CPR for a team accused of choking, a diagnosis that often oversimplified what ailed the Sharks. That goal just one of 46 points he scored in the postseason in San Jose, the best among defensemen in franchise history.

That goal was Dan Boyle in a nutshell.

Dan Boyle led me here.

In a span of two days in the summer of 2008, Doug Wilson boosted the San Jose Sharks’ blueline considerably, signing Rob Blake and acquiring Dan Boyle in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Until then, I had been fairly interested in the Sharks. I’d watched games on television and in person, but had not followed the team feverishly. But those acquisitions kicked my interest into overdrive, and I made an effort to follow the Sharks more.

As the Sharks got off to their best start in franchise history on the way to their first ever President’s Trophy, I followed the team like never before. I read about the team every day, eventually finding my way here to Fear the Fin, as I searched for solace after the Anaheim Ducks gave the Sharks their toughest postseason pill to swallow: a six game loss in the playoffs’ opening round. Seven years later, after reading, lurking, and eventually commenting, I somehow find myself writing for that same website.

Sure, that all still may have happened if Doug Wilson never acquired Dan Boyle. But, just as Owen Nolan’s retirement took me back to my childhood, or Evgeni Nabokov’s took me back to my adolescence, Dan Boyle’s takes me back to the formative years of my hockey fandom.

Here, I saw hockey and humor blended seamlessly. Here, I took my first steps into the larger world of hockey analytics. My views on hockey writing and the sport itself have been shaped during my time reading and writing for Fear the Fin. Dan Boyle was a Shark and a topic for so many of those years, and a huge part of why I began reading in the first place.

Dan Boyle will be missed.

He’s been missed since the Sharks traded his rights and he eventually signed with the Rangers in 2014, but we’ve still been able to enjoy him, albeit from afar. We saw him return to San Jose to a standing ovation in January 2015. We reveled as he ripped a reporter in his final press conference in New York this spring, giving us a taste of the trademark passion he played with on the ice. But now, even those small tastes are coming to an end.

His retirement is a reminder of an era in Sharks history that could soon end. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are in the twilight of his careers, and are not under contract beyond this season. Neither is Brent Burns, the man acquired in 2011 to succeed him. Dan Boyle’s acquisition in 2008 opened the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window as wide as it had ever been, and that window may soon shut.

That era is yet to end in a Stanley Cup, but is undoubtedly the most successful in the Sharks’ history. That success does not happen without Dan Boyle. He raised the bar in San Jose, changing our expectations of its top defensemen, its power play, and even the team itself.

He’s impacted this franchise, this fanbase, and this writer tremendously.

So, thank you, Dan Boyle. For everything.